Going for gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games

Trampolinist Laura Gallagher, 20, has just given up her job to train full time, with the goal of going for gold at The London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games
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"I like the adrenaline of learning new moves and the rush you get during a competition," says Gallagher of trampolining. "I like the challenge and the fight and the fact that I have learnt so much about myself."

Gallagher, who started trampolining at her club, High Flyers, at the age of 12, won the Under 19 World Championships in November 2007, but suffered a huge loss of confidence just weeks later, so much so that she was sometimes too scared to get on the trampoline. She was subsequently dropped from the national squad and hit rock bottom, before finding a way of turning her life around.

"I spent an awful lot of time trying to find an answer as to why it happened and why it happened to me, but there was no answer," she says. "Once I accepted I wasn't going to find an answer, I could look forward. That was scary because I couldn't see myself getting through it. I saw many psychologists, but, in truth, only I could get myself through it.

"I did a lot of soul searching and made many changes in myself. I started by writing a plan by myself, then together with my coach, Sue. We both admit now that while writing this plan, neither of us actually thought I could achieve it! But you only succeed if you fight outside your comfort zone. Very slowly, the moves came back and the mistakes became less and less.

"I had overwhelming support from Sue, my family and my club – that helped me hugely. So many people would have just given up on me – I was a wreck, I cried all the time, I really was down.

"This experience taught me so much about myself. I never had any self-belief or confidence and never once stopped and patted myself on the back for my achievements, but now I feel so proud of myself for getting through it and for everything I have achieved in my life.

"It taught me that I am a strong and brave person to stick with it. It has also taught me to work hard and make the most of what I have now because it can so easily disappear – it has really helped my motivation to succeed in everything I do. I believe everything happens for a reason and this happened to make me stronger as a person and as an athlete.

"This year, I have qualified for the European Championships in April, and I hope to compete at the World Championships in November. I am training very hard and trying to get as much experience of competing as possible. I won't hide away from the subject – I want to win a Gold Medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games and I think this is a realistic hope.

"Having the Olympic Games in London will inspire athletes and children in our own country to get involved in something. I believe in the ethos of the Olympic Games – it's not about the winning but being part of it, and the Olympic Games is really spectator-friendly. It’s so exciting to watch, and inspiring to hear the stories of how the athletes got there."

Gallagher has been shortlisted for the current round of Great Britons (for which public voting is taking place now), a programme run by British Airways to celebrate The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. BA, the official airline partner of the 2012 Olympic Games, is looking for people who need support to develop their talent in the areas of sport, community, fashion, performing arts, innovation, and art and design. The winners get flights to BA destinations anywhere in the world, and Gallagher hopes to win flights to Montreal so she can train with some of the best trampolinists in the world.

"Being shortlisted is incredibly exciting," she says. "The support has been amazing and I feel very privileged to be a part of it. Winning would mean that I could get much-needed experience training in a new environment – Canada has facilities that we don’t have in the UK and there are many trampolinists there who I look up to. I want to see how they train because it would be a huge learning experience. It would mean a lot!"